Primer on Private Mortgage Insurance

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I just had a quick review on private mortgage insurance (PMI), due to a real situation with a client.  Most Realtors have to know a little something about mortgages, but with the ever-changing rules, laws and climate of the financial industry, it’s hard to stay on top of it all.   My client was quoted a certain rate on their PMI before getting into a contract to buy a home, and by the end the price had gone up almost $100/mo. from the original quote. While to some 100 bucks is chump change, to this client it almost broke the bank and killed the deal.   The client saw it more as $1200 extra a year and $6000 extra over 5 years. Here are some tidbit and a few new things I learned.

Most people know that PMI is required for FHA loans.  However, it’s any loan that is over 80% of the loan to value.  Or another way to put it, if a borrower does not put down 20% or more of the purchase price, PMI is required by the lender.  Many would see it like a punishment for not having enough money to put down.  This type of mortgage insurance is not for the borrower, rather it’s insurance for the mortgage company or note holder.  They are protecting themselves against the borrower defaulting on their loan.  The theory being, if a borrower puts more money down (in this case 20%) they are less likely to default or not pay their mortgage payment.  Or conversely, when there is less “skin in the game,” there is more reason to bail or default when times get tough.   A borrower can be relieved of this dreaded insurance by paying down their mortgage so that they have 20% equity, or their loan is 80% of the home value.  I’ve heard that mortgage companies are required to cancel the PMI once it hits 78%, but the savvy borrow might keep a closer eye on things and get it cancelled sooner.   The other way to get rid of PMI is if the market is favorable – over time values can increase to a point where the home is reappraised and the market has worked it’s magic… no more PMI!

Mortgage insurance is actually run by private companies, hence, private mortgage insurance (PMI).  It’s not run by the bank/lender or mortgage broker.  There are three main companies here in Sacramento, CA.  They post their rates, kind of like title companies, so there’s not much negotiating.  I learned though that the rate varies (goes up and down slightly) based on one’s credit score and amount of down payment.  FHA loans require 3.5% down payment – it may be worth it to see what the difference is if you can afford to put down 5% (1.5% more).  It could lower your cost in the long run.

Any other lenders and real estate buffs have more to add – feel free to comment.

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Keith Klassen, Real Estate Broker

Klasssen & Associates / 916.595.7900

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